Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: High Street reels from HMV crash

Embattled national music retailer HMV, which has gone into administration, is yet another manifestation of the changing face of our High Streets.

Following the collapse of photography chain Jessops and electrical retailers Comet, it is clear that even well established companies are not immune to the impact of our evolving shopping habits. The switch to online shopping has hit many companies which have large chains of physical stores, often on premium sites, to finance.

But it is the changes in the music industry itself which have hit HMV hardest. The move to digital downloads means that music lovers can now stock up on all their favourite tunes without leaving their computer keyboards and can store a huge library in a small hand-held device. CD sales are falling and HMV also failed to cash in on the games or DVD markets leaving it in a very vulnerable position.

The company's demise - if it comes to that - will be greeted with dismay by generations of music lovers. Those of us of a certain age will remember how the record shop was the place to go in our youth, to browse the racks and debate the relative merits of the various pop acts with our friends. That social interaction is now harder to find as the physical presence of the music retailing industry continues to freefall.

Now, if we are lucky, there are just small independent record shops left in many towns and cities, catering for specialised tastes, such as the resurgent vinyl market.

The haemorrhaging of retail giants from the High Street means that politicians and councils will have to be more innovative in how they treat this sector of commerce.

Perhaps they could look at their rates structure and what assistance can be offered to independents who attempt to plug the holes left by the national chains. They should be seen as welcoming to new business instead of an obstacle or soon the High Street will be even more empty than it is at present.

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